BLAISE TAPP: Wasting school holidays in the era of ‘on demand’

Are parents not making the most of their little ones' time off from school? Picture: Shutterstock
Are parents not making the most of their little ones' time off from school? Picture: Shutterstock
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This is the week millions of us parents have been waiting for since, pretty much, the fourth week of July. It is, of course, back to school week.

As much as we love our children, six weeks – or nine if you are well off enough to shell out for an independent school place – is one hell of a long time to keep the little darlings occupied.

If not planned properly, school holidays can be as long drawn out as a Brexit negotiation summit meeting and even less productive. Possibly.

The easiest thing in the world would be to plug our offspring into a device of any description and let them squander the best years of their life on short-lived cyber bliss.

Millions of us – and I hold my hands up to this – are guilty of allowing the young masters and mistresses of our universe to plunder our digital television film store if it means that we get some respite from the endless questions about what we are going to do on any given day.

Wasting precious time is something at which much of mankind excels, and lengthy school holidays are a perfect example of this.

While I do have a great deal of sympathy for youngsters today – supermarkets trumpet their back to school ranges before the kids break up for the summer – they haven’t a clue about how to waste time in style.

Perhaps it is because we live in an ‘on demand’ society where most people, irrespective of their income, have a world of entertainment at their fingertips but past generations, mine included, were the champions of being bored during the school holidays.

Although my own summer holidays consisted of playing football and ping pong, lengthy stays at the homes of my favourite relatives and, of course, the obligatory trip away with the family, boredom was the consistent theme throughout it all.

It was so boring that children of the 1980s were left with little choice but to watch every episode of Why Don’t You? – a tedious television programme which encouraged bored children not to watch television.

Summer holidays only began to marginally improve upon the discovery of cigarettes, alcohol and members of the opposite sex. How wrong we were.

Of course, we now know that those six school-free weeks were the best days of our lives, which is why it always puzzles me that us grown-ups profess to dislike spending prolonged periods of time with our little people.

Is it because we don’t really know how to properly engage with our children without the conversation descending into a slanging match? This is nothing new – rewind 30 years and my own mother would be doing cartwheels at the prospect of the new school year.

Looking back on what she had to endure during those six very long weeks, I don’t blame her. But, what I have also since learned is that, although being stuck indoors with fed up youngsters while it tips with rain outside can be especially wearisome, you do actually miss them when they are back in the classroom.

Although there are at least a good 20 years until ours fly the nest, it dawned on me that school holidays are actually a metaphor for parenthood – it is a slog while it lasts but once it ends we regret we didn’t make more of it.

Roll on next July.